Sunday, May 22, 2022

Loughnane: Dana White Criticism Made Me Into The Fighter I Am Today

PFL featherweight Brendan Loughnane has thanked Dana White for the criticism he gave the Englishman on DWCS, saying it helped make him into the fighter he is today.

Loughnane, who is one of the stars of the 2021 season in the rising PFL promotion, has amassed an impressive 21-3 record in MMA and is just two fights away from championship glory and $1 million in prize money.

But despite his always-growing stock in the sport, and his active seven-fight winning streak, Loughnane’s journey certainly hasn’t been without adversity. In 2019, the Manchester native was denied a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series despite a great victory over Bill Algeo, who ended up joining the UFC himself last year.

To the dismay of fans and pundits alike, White chose not to sign the hard-swinging Englishman because “you don’t double-leg when the 1-second thing claps.” It was always a disputed decision, especially considering the fan-friendly fighting style Loughnane always brings to the cage, which is something he put on full display with his vicious first-round stoppage against former UFC veteran Sheymon Moraes earlier this year.

But despite that setback, the 31-year-old can now look back at it as a blessing in disguise given his journey with the PFL so far this season. Speaking with MMA News, Loughnane thanked White for his comments, suggesting they helped develop him into the fighter he is today.

“Yeah, I mean, I was told that this would work out for the better in the long run, I just couldn’t see it at the time,” he said. “And yeah, it looks like it has, it really, really looks like it has. And I thank Dana for the criticism, I really do, because it’s made me the fighter I am today… I’m two fights away from a million dollars; who’d have thought it?”

DWCS wasn’t Loughnane’s first taste of the UFC’s talent-finding shows. The UK fighter had previously featured on The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes back in 2012 alongside the likes of Robert Whittaker and Norman Parke. Having replaced the injured Michael Pastou, Loughnane went on to be eliminated in the semifinals of the lightweight bracket.

Brendan Loughnane on TUF (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Zuffa LLC)

Having been round the block in MMA, Loughnane reflected on his journey to where he is today. He believes he’s earned his current success by gaining experience and staying hungry, even when things haven’t gone his way

“Well I’ve been on The Ultimate Fighter as well, I’ve been on the contender, I’ve fought in all major promotions apart from Bellator. So, I’ve seen it all now at this stage and I feel like that’s really gonna help me at this stage of my career… If you stay in it long enough, and you stay around and stay hungry, you time will come.

“I shared the show with Robert Whittaker, and it’s only me and him that’s still going. We just kept on the path and I feel like we took our knocks and bumps and now it’s our time to shine, or my time at least, he’s still flying where he is.”

Given his season so far, it certainly looks like it is Loughnane’s time to shine, and he’ll look to hammer home that point in his PFL Playoffs main event this Friday.

PFL 9: Loughnane vs. Khaybulaev

Having secured a second consecutive victory this year in an absolute war against Tyler Diamond, Loughnane secured his place in the featherweight semifinals. Opposite him in this week’s headliner will be the dangerous Movlid Khaybulaev.

The Russian boasts an undefeated 17-0-1 record, and was tipped by many to be the leading contender for the title heading into the 2021 season. But despite the zero in Khaybulaev’s record, he was originally beaten by Daniel Pineda in 2019. However, a failed drug test saw the result overturned to a no contest, and “Killer” maintained his unbeaten record.

Nevertheless, Loughnane knows the 30-year-old is beatable. The Englishman told MMA News that the guide to beating Khaybulaev is out there for all to see.

“Yeah, there’s a blueprint out there isn’t there. I mean, I know Pineda popped for steroids but there’s no taking away from what happened in the fight.

“I’m a striker, Pineda’s a striker; he’s a similar fighter to me. So, yeah, there’s definitely a blueprint out there for sure.”

Loughnane is heading into his crucial fight this Friday as the betting underdog, which may come as a surprise to many given his previous displays in 2021. According to the 31-year-old, people are overlooking his own record because of his opponent’s.

“It just seems like everyone’s writing me off a bit in this fight. But with his 17-0, everyone’s forgetting that I’m 21-3 with three questionable decisions. So, let’s not forget my record as well… It makes for a great matchup. What a great headliner for PFL.”

Speaking about Khaybulaev as an opponent, Loughnane praised the Russian’s all-round abilities, and despite suggesting his wheelhouse will be on the feet against “Killer,” the underdog says he’s prepared should Khaybulaev employ a wrestling-heavy offense.

“He’s a very, very well-versed mixed martial artist like myself. He can throw great shots, he can spin, he can kick, he can takedown, he can submit, he can ground & pound; he’s a mixed martial artist like myself,” said Loughnane. “And, with a fight like this, at this high level and this high calibre, it’s whoever’s prepared the best and whoever can impose their will on the night.

“I’ve trained vigorously in my wrestling. I just know that if it’s on the feet it favors me. So, we’ve worked so hard on my wrestling, takedown defense, scrambles, in this camp… I am truly a mixed martial artist. I’m prepared for it all.”

Despite sitting just two victories away from a life-changing $1 million, Brendan Loughnane says having gold wrapped around his waist means more to him than the prize money.

“I mean, how can you not look at the prize money? How can you not look at a million dollars?… It’s always a massive incentive, but the belt is what means more to me at this point,” Loughnane told MMA News.

The Global Strength at Featherweight

While the UFC has often been viewed as the home of the top talent in mixed martial arts, featherweights outside of the UFC are perhaps beginning to change the perception that fighters must prove themselves in the Dana White-led promotion before being considered a part of the MMA elite.

According to Loughnane, while the likes of Max Holloway are fighting, the UFC still plays host to the world’s top featherweights.

“I’d just say that there’s great talent in the 145 division worldwide… UFC have got the cream of the crop. You’ve got the Holloways, you’ve got the Barbozas, you’ve got them them sort of fighters…they’re the cream of the crop in my eyes.”

One emerging star in the sport is Bellator Featherweight Champion AJ McKee. “Mercenary” reached the 145-pound mountaintop in the promotion with a remarkable first-round submission victory over Patricio “Pitbull” Freire at Bellator 263. The grand prix victory netted the 26-year-old the division’s gold and $1 million, a feat Loughnane will look to replicate in the closing months of this year’s PFL season.

Pitbull McKee
Image Credit: Bellator MMA

According to Bellator kingpin Scott Coker, the 18-0 McKee has a solid case for the title of the world’s pound-for-pound best. In response, UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski suggested the Californian can’t be considered a part of the 145-pound elite without proving himself in the UFC first.

When asked where he sits on that debate, Loughnane praised McKee’s pedigree and claimed both “Mercenary” and himself could compete at the top of the UFC featherweight division.

“AJ McKee can fight with any 145er on the planet. Let’s have it right, that’s a fact. He’s proven it. He’s undefeated, he’s great everywhere, he’s the new breed of mixed martial artist.

“So, you could slide him into the top 10 of the UFC and he would compete with any of them. I feel like I could compete at the top tier of the UFC… I feel like I could compete with them people,” said Loughnane. “I’ve sparred with a lot of top 10 UFC fighters. I’ve sparred with world champions in the UFC. And I know exactly my levels and people know my levels.”

Brendan Loughnane spars with former UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz (Image Credit: @brendanmma on Instagram)

Loughnane Predicts Success for Pimblett, Till, and Edwards

While Brendan Loughnane leads the charge in the PFL, a familiar name to the Englishman is making his own surge onto the global MMA stage.

Liverpool’s Paddy Pimblett is set to finally announce his arrival in the UFC when he makes his debut at UFC Vegas 36 next weekend. The former Cage Warriors champ will look to make an immediate impression when he squares off with Luigi Vendramini inside the UFC Apex next Saturday.

Loughnane told MMA News that the pair have had a number of planned clashes fall through in the past. Both hailing from North England, the 31-year-old says he’s delighted to see his compatriot arrive in the UFC, and hopes he’s successful with the promotion.

“Me and Pimblett have been back and forward for years. That was the fight that was supposed to happen on a few occasions, it just didn’t come to fruition,” revealed Loughnane. “I’m really happy to see him on the world stage, and I wish him the best of luck in the UFC. I hope he does great things, we’re both northern lads and we’re both chasing our dreams. I really hope he smashes it in the UFC.”

According to Loughnane, a meeting in the cage between him and Pimblett is long overdue and is likely to happen at some point down the road. The Manchester striker even painted a picture of the two entertainers throwing down inside Liverpool’s Echo Arena, which previously held Darren Till’s main event clash with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.

“That fight probably will happen at some point. It’s been on the radar for 10 years nearly… It just didn’t come to fruition due to promotions and promoters. But eventually, one day, me and Paddy will fight. We’ve always said it.

“Can you imagine? Filling out the Echo Arena.”

Like Pimblett, Till will also be in action on September 4. In the card’s main event, he’ll take on perennial contender Derek Brunson. Along with top welterweight Leon Edwards, the Liverpudlian has looked like England’s best hope for a UFC champion since Michael Bisping’s title glory in 2016.

Despite the imposing figures of Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman currently reigning over the 185 and 170-pound divisions, Loughnane is confident the pair can have gold wrapped around their waists. While praising the entire UK MMA scene, the PFL star said he expects “The Gorilla” and “Rocky” to reach the top.

“It’s a great time, it’s the golden era for British MMA. I feel like we’re all doing amazing things in our respective promotions. You even look at some of the guys we’ve got in Bellator at the minute who are doing really good.

“I really do believe in my heart that Leon Edwards and Darren Till can be UFC champions and will be UFC champions.”

Before supporting his compatriots next weekend, Loughnane will be fully focused on his own important matchup this Friday. Should he be victorious, the Englishman will have booked his place in the featherweight final and will be one victory away from championship glory, $1 million, and cementing his place as one of the UK’s top MMA stars.

Do you think Brendan Loughnane can win this year’s PFL featherweight tournament?

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